Rules were made to be broken...

Written by Sam Gibbins on Tuesday March 6, 2012

‘These rules don’t make sense’
‘I don’t understand why we need these rules’
‘We never used to have so many rules we had to follow’
‘Do we really have to follow these?’

Sound familiar? I thought they might. But these are not the rumblings and mumblings of a band of business professionals struggling to adapt to a new set of rules and regulations laid down to benefit their industry. Rather, these are in response to the new Competition Rulebook issued by the Singapore Rugby Union. How the world of amateur sport has changed!

It is not often you get the chance to watch the birth and evolution of a set of rules, but at the start of our current season here in Singapore, the union laid down new rules which instantly set the cat amongst the pigeons. The rules are mostly straightforward enough; they are a list of what you can and cannot do throughout the season regarding player eligibility. Simple, surely?

Or not. Because when rules are made, you have the choice to do one of two things. You can look at them closely, make an analysis of what they mean and then abide by them, like you are meant to. Or you can spend your time figuring out ways of ‘cheating’ the system, circumventing said rules for your own benefit.

A major sticking point in these rules is the ‘interpretation’ of them; vague sentences that give rise to a multitude of possible outcomes, a plethora of options that you could pass off as legitimate but really are not in the spirit of the rules.

And then, of course, there are those who are charged with implementing these rules. What if they are not competent? What if they make an error? What if they are biased towards one group or another?

And so the opening statements ring true; people want and need to understand why we have these rules. Crucially, of what benefit do they provide?

Working in this field, and watching the evolution of the Competition Rulebook, I have seen first-hand the difficulties of implementing these rules. The resistance to change, the lack of understanding, and the knowledge gap between those in charge and the rest. But having witnessed financial regulation ‘rule changes’, and the impact this had has on society as a whole, I can say for certainty that I am glad the rules are here to stay.

Who knows how bad things might be without them? We have seen instances where the rules are broken; nothing in this world is perfect. The rules are there for a reason, and they do, I hope you will agree, provide benefit for those people they are designed to protect. Sometimes I think we all need to remember that they are a constant ‘work in progress’, an evolving body that has to keep up with the times and bend to the needs of industries, organisations, and even amateur sports teams.

And for those compliance officers struggling with the questions being asked I posed at the start of the blog, remember this; you are not alone.


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